Overpass ‘residents’ seek government help

By Mariela Angella Oladive

The planned removal of an underused pedestrian overpass on Luna Street in La Paz, Iloilo City, as announced by Mayor Jerry Treñas, has led to an appeal for government assistance from the family that converted the structure into a house.

Alias “Toto,” a 42-year-old father of three who lived on the overpass, is now grappling with the uncertainty of his family’s future.

“Subong, ma’am, kon pahalinon nyo kami, obligado gid kami nga maghalin kay indi ni amon, pero gahambal ko ya nga 100% sa dalan ko ya dyapon matulog kay wala kami balay nga tulugan, amo ni nga ari kami di, ma’am,” Toto stated emotionally in an interview during the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO)’s visit on Tuesday, April 2.

(If you will require us to leave right now, we have no choice but to go because this isn’t ours. But I assure you, 100% of the time, my family will still sleep on the pavement because we have no shelter, that’s why we are here [in the overpass], ma’am.)

“Amo na nga gapangayo kami sa inyo nga buligan nyo gid kami, bisan gamay lang, bisan payag-payag lang gid, ma’am,” Toto pleaded.

(That’s why we’re asking for help, even if it’s just a little, even if it’s just a makeshift house, ma’am.)

Toto, hailing from Muelle Loney area in Ceity Proper, emphasized that they have not sought financial aid and have maintained a peaceful presence.

The family received a notice to vacate on March 18 and was given three days to comply, which proved impossible due to financial limitations.

“May inog down ako sadto sa balay, ugaring ang problema kay ginagamit ko man sa adlaw adlaw kay wala ko obra. Pero kon may obra ko nga insakto nga steady, indi nyo gid ko di makita,” Toto said.

(I had some money for a down payment on a house back then, but the problem was I used it for daily expenses because I didn’t have a job. If I had a steady and sufficient job, you wouldn’t see me here)

Toto clarified that they had only been residing in the overpass for less than a month.

He also ruled out relocating to his wife’s hometown, Kalibo, citing family conflicts, space constraints, and scarce job prospects.

“At least diri sa city makapaparking-parking ako (Here in the city, I can at least work as a parking attendant),” he said, revealing an income of around 500 pesos a day from such work.

He is not a member of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a program implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), as part of the national poverty reduction strategy of the government.

He expressed his willingness to work if given the opportunity, sharing attempts to apply as a construction worker and is still waiting for callbacks.

Iloilo City’s Public Safety and Transportation Management Office (PSTMO) Head Jeck Conlu, in a press briefing on the same day of the CSWDO’s visit to the family, emphasized the necessity of the overpass’s demolition due to pedestrian safety concerns, along with other issues like congestion and sanitation.

He noted other issues like congestion, sanitation problems, and safety hazards

Meanwhile, the CSWDO has vowed to support Toto and his family in securing appropriate assistance.

Mary Grace Centino, the CSWDO-Iloilo City operations chief, clarified they can’t offer housing but will coordinate with relevant agencies.

Assurances were given that the CSWDO would strive to find temporary shelter while seeking a long-term housing solution for Toto and his family.

“Sa subong, indi ta pa sila pwede mapahalin, amo na nag-istorya kita anay sa ila. Tinguhaan naton nga matagaan sila sang nagakaigo nga bulig para sa ila. Ipahimos ta lang anay ang ila mga gamit. Si Sir Toto gusto ya makaubra kag may tiniran sila nga maayo. Ang iya tatlo ka bata dapat man nga buligan, i-pacheck up naton kon ano,” Centino remarked.

(For now, we cannot ask them to leave yet, so we talked to them first. We’ll try to provide them with appropriate assistance. Sir Toto wants to work and have a decent place to stay. We should also help his three children, we’ll have them checked up to see what they need)

The official reassured that efforts will be made to secure temporary shelter while pursuing a permanent solution for Toto and his family.

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